Yesterday, Donald Trump pardoned a lot of people and you can be sure that there will be more to come before he is kicked out of the White House.The list of pardon beneficiaries include the usual cronies and politicians. But the ones that really stick in the craw are the pardons of people who killed civilians and were tried and convicted of their offenses.
The four Blackwater guards — Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard — were convicted by a federal jury in 2014 after a lengthy trial that saw some 30 witnesses travel from Iraq to testify against them. Prosecutors accused the men of illegally unleashing “powerful sniper fire, machine guns and grenade launchers on innocent men, women and children.”
According to prosecutors, the four were among seven Blackwater employees who opened fire in the Nusoor Square traffic circle in Baghdad, killing 17 people.
An FBI investigation found 14 of the deaths unjustified, according to rules of engagement for private security contractors in Iraq. Slatten was accused of firing the first shots.
Then there were the pardons of two Border Patrol agents who shot an undocumented immigrant.
The two Border Patrol agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, received 11- and 12-year prison sentences for their role in the 2006 shooting. Their sentences were later reduced through presidential commutation by George W. Bush.
The shooting happened February 17, 2005, on the US-Mexico border southeast of El Paso, Texas. During their trial, Ramos and Compean said that the illegal immigrant, Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, had brandished a gun while actively resisting arrest.
Aldrete-Davila said, however, that he was unarmed and trying to surrender when Compean attempted to beat him with a shotgun.
This is in addition to his earlier pardon of soldiers convicted of war crimes.
President Donald Trump, carrying through on a previous pledge, granted full pardons on Friday to a pair of Army officers convicted of or charged with war crimes — and also promoted a Navy SEAL who was tried and acquitted for similar violations of the laws of armed conflict.
The grants of clemency for 1st Lt. Clint Lorance and Maj. Mathew Golsteyn — and the promotion to chief petty officer of Edward Gallagher, who had been demoted from that rank — were approved despite lingering concerns that such presidential interference will damage the integrity of the military justice system.
Lorance was found guilty by a military court on two counts of second-degree murder for ordering his soldiers to fire on three men in Afghanistan in 2008. He was convicted in part on the strength of the testimony of members of the infantry platoon he was commanding.
“The guy’s a war criminal,” Andrew Duggins, a former Army captain who served with Lorance in the same unit of the 82nd Airborne Division at the time and who read sworn statements of Lorance’s platoonmates made immediately after the mission. “It’s clear cut, and it shouldn’t be a partisan issue for Clint to be in jail for his full sentence. He was a bully and he was scared.”
Golsteyn was set to stand trial for allegedly killing a suspected terrorist bomb-maker in Afghanistan in 2010.
A Green Beret team leader at the time of the extrajudicial killing, he was awarded the Silver Star for separate actions during the deployment. The Army later revoked that award after he acknowledged the killing during a CIA job interview, prompting the first investigation into his actions.
Gallagher’s recent acquittal on most charges stemming from the murder of a teenage prisoner of war in Iraq drew widespread attention because of Trump’s defense of his actions. Members of Gallagher’s SEAL platoon testified against him. But in what was described as a botched prosecution, some of the witnesses contradicted one another and even themselves.
Gallagher was acquitted of the murder charge but was found guilty of the lesser offense of posing for photographs with the corpse and was demoted.
Of course, readers would have noted that all the people shot and killed were people of color, Mexicans, Iraqis and Afghans, so their lives don’t really matter, do they?
The US loves to demand that other countries punish those who harm Americans. But when people acting on behalf of America kill people of other countries? The killers are treated leniently. The pattern goes way back, long before Trump.